Now that we are quite literally on the cusp of college basketball season (10 days, people), some of those “way-too-early” predictions about the 2023-2024 season are no longer “way-too-early.” In fact, the season starts so soon, that if you don’t get your hot takes in now, it’ll be too late come November. Nobody wants to hear that you’re on the Arkansas train (for example), four weeks into the season when they’re 6-0 and ranked No. 5 in the country!
This week, we’re making our Final Four picks. This time last year, Connor and Justin made these picks, and Connor nailed Miami. Can either of the guys correctly predict even one Final Four team this year?
Last week, the guys both picked an in-state team that they’d love to see Ohio State play on an annual basis. Connor picked the Dayton Flyers, who the Buckeye beat this past weekend at UD Arena in a charity exhibition game, 78-70. Justin went with the Xavier Musketeers, who are led by the recently-extended Sean Miller.
43% of the people picked Dayton, 38% picked Xavier, and the remaining 19% picked “someone else.”
After 123 weeks:
(There have been four ties)
This week, the guys are calling their shots on the Final Four. Last season’s Final Four did not include any teams seeded higher than four (The National Champion UConn Huskies were a four-seed), so if you think it’ll be a group of teams that are all ranked in the AP Top 25, think again.
Today’s Question: Which teams will make the 2024 men’s Final Four?
Connor - Arizona, Arkansas, Creighton, Miami
AP Rank: 12
KenPom Rank: 6
Of all the teams that have a reputation for being good in the regular season but stinking up the joint in March, Arizona is right up there with the best of them. If it weren’t for Purdue losing to FDU, Arizona’s loss to Princeton in the first round would’ve been a much bigger story. As a matter of fact, Tommy Lloyd should send Matt Painter some flowers — the Purdue loss completely took the heat off of Arizona.
The Wildcats haven’t been good in March for some time now, but I’m drinking the Kool-Aid this year. Lloyd crushed the transfer portal, bringing in San Diego State forward Keshad Johnson, North Carolina guard Caleb Love, and Alabama guard Jaden Bradley. They also lost Kerr Kriisa, which is actually addition by subtraction, in my opinion.
Arizona is going to have one of the best offenses in the country and will be one of the most experienced teams as well with the likes of Ballo, Love, Johnson, Pelle Larson, and others. The final PAC-12 championship is theirs to lose.
AP Rank: 8
KenPom Rank: 12
Creighton was very close to making its first Final Four in program history last season but came up just short in the Elite Eight against San Diego State. But they’re running back three of the starters from last year, each of whom could be an All-American this year. Baylor Scheierman is a big-time lefty scorer who can drop in three-pointers or take the ball to the rack. Ryan Kalkbrenner is one of the most efficient scorers in the nation, as well as one of the very best defenders. Trey Alexander dabbled with the NBA after scoring 13.6 PPG last season but is back at Creighton for one more year.
On top of that, the Blue Jays added Utah State point guard Steven Ashworth in to replace Ryan Nembhard, who transferred to Gonzaga. Creighton doesn’t have great depth, but they’ll once again have one of the best starting lineups in the country. They’re one injury away from not being close to a Final Four team, but if they can keep that starting lineup healthy, they could win it all.
AP Rank: 14
KenPom Rank: 14
Eric Musselman is at it again, folks. He took the Razorbacks to another Sweet 16, lost a ton of talent from that team, but immediately re-loaded in the portal. Arkansas brought in six players in the portal that are expected to contribute, headlined by Temple’s Khalif Battle, Houston’s Tramon Mark, and Louisville’s El Ellis.
That’s all on top of the fact that Devo Davis (10.9 PPG) and Trevon Brazile (11.8 PPG) are both returning. There’s a chance that Arkansas could roll out a starting five made up exclusively of guys who averaged 10+ PPG last season. That’s absurd.
And don’t forget that Musselman’s Arkansas teams are perenially one of the best defensive teams in the nation. The top of the SEC is stacked, but Arkansas could easily win it.
AP Rank: 13
KenPom Rank: 6
It’s easy to hate on the school that’s been throwing bags of money at guys, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still really freaking good. The Hurricanes lost two big-time players in Jordan Miller and Isaiah Wong, but they return three starters and have a breakout candidate, too.
Nijel Pack and Norchad Omier are both back. Pack will continue to do what he does — score in high volume and knock down a ton of threes. Omier should expand on his 13/10 average from last season as he continues to adjust to the ACC. Wooga Poplar is a guy who only played about 23 minutes per game last season, but is a very good all-around guard, and is one of the most talked-about breakout candidates in college basketball this year.
They also added Florida State transfer Matthew Cleveland, a 6-foot-7 junior who scored nearly 14 PPG last season. Yeah, Miami is going to be just fine.
Justin - Kansas, Duke, Michigan State, Creighton
AP Rank: 1
KenPom Rank: 2
Kansas added Hunter Dickinson to an already great core of players like Dajuan Harris, KJ Adams, and Kevin McCullar. Nick Timberlake is a Towson transfer who will also be immediately scoring help for the Jayhawks.
Elmarko Jackson is a top recruit coming in that will have an impact immediately. The mix of veterans and two top-10 transfers coming in will be big for them, and they don’t need too much depth because Bill Self usually does not go too far into his bench anyway, especially late in the season.
AP Rank: 2
KenPom Rank: 9
I think Duke is the best team in the country. This could also be a holdover from last season when I picked Duke to win the National Championship, and they lost to Tennessee in the Second Round, so who knows. But Kyle Filipkowski is one of the best players in the country, and Tyrese Proctor. With Jeremy Roach and Mark Mitchell back, the Duke starting five will likely be the best in the country.
Jared McCain and Sean Stewart are two of the best freshmen in the country and will make an immediate impact for the Blue Devils.
AP Rank: 4
KenPom Rank: 13
What wins in March? Guard play, experience, and coaching. The Spartans definitely have all three of those. A.J. Hoggard, Tyson Walker, and Jaden Akins make up one of the top backcourts in the country. The only question will be how impactful this top recruiting class the Spartans have coming in, and if they can be impactful right away, this is one of the best teams in the country.
AP Rank: 8
KenPom Rank: 12
I gave up a little bit on Creighton when they lost Ryan Nembhard, but the coaching staff did a great job going and getting Utah State veteran guard Steven Ashworth. Ryan Kalkbrenner is one of the best players in the country, and Trey Alexander and Baylor Scheierman are legitimate All-Big 12 players. This is a deep team that checks all the boxes after an Elite Eight run last year.
Whose Final Four seems more likely?
This poll is closed
Connor (Arizona, Arkansas, Creighton, Miami)
Justin (Kansas, Duke, Michigan State, Creighton)